While Monster was a book I had heard of, it was one that was just on my radar, but not as something I was either choosing to read or not choosing to read. (Gah, that sounds really stupid. What I mean is…I was neutral about it…). On the other hand, I have heard of Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, and had actively chosen not to read it. This is the final book from the 2000 Michael L Printz honored books list, and I had to read it, whether I wanted to or not.
I don’t really know why I was avoiding it. For one thing, my TBR list is pretty epically long — but if I’m being honest, I thought it seemed like it might be too depressing, or too preachy (really, why did I think that?), or something. I knew about it mostly from the posts going up around the times when it had been challenged, such as in 2013 when it was labelled “child pornography.” Seriously. Now, when I was reading it (actually listening to the audiobook), I didn’t actively think about the fact that I knew it had been challenged, but afterwards, when I was poking around on the Internet, I was shocked to be reminded of this.
Because the people who think this is are completely nuts and in need of a reading comprehension refresher.
Will this book make a parent uncomfortable? Probably — there is some strong language, but it’s no different than what teenagers are saying to each other, and frankly a lot cleaner. And, of course, it’s about rape. There’s so, so much wrapped up in just that one little word. And the idea that kids shouldn’t read dark books is just…so…horrifying. Dark things happen to them. Every day. That’s the horrifying part. Reading about someone who has gone through something and come through the other side, maybe that will make them hopeful.
For a book about such a hard topic, there was quite a bit of humor. I chuckled a lot. I cried a little, too. I remember being in high school and feeling so many feelings. Looking back, I know that I felt like the social order in my school was just as rigid as the one at Melinda’s school. I was a chorus kid, we were pretty far down on the ladder. The part I get now, though, is that everyone, no matter which group they were a part of, was just as insecure as my friends and I were. No one had it figured out, even if they looked and/or acted like they did.
I work at, and my kids go to, a MUCH smaller high school. I graduated with 200 kids in my class. There are only about 150 students TOTAL in our high school. There are still dividing lines, but these kids have been together since kindergarten and they can’t quite get away from each as easily as you can when there are hundreds of kids. I don’t know which is better. Just different, I guess.
I didn’t realize until after finishing that this was Anderson’s debut novel. It’s wonderfully written, and completely deserves the accolades it’s gotten. I’m glad I took on this project to read the Printz books, as it got me to read a really amazing book that I shouldn’t have avoided for so long.